Scandal and Scoundrel, Book 1
Heat Factor: Lots of cunnilingus. I can get behind this.
Character Chemistry: “We don’t even like each other!”
Plot: She needs a ride to Mayfair, so she stows away in his carriage. And ends up going all the way to Cumbria. Whoops. (Basically: Almost to Scotland. We all know what happens when you go to Scotland in Regency Smut.)
Overall: A really fun read, despite some of the “No YOU deserve better” nonsense that occurs.
Sophie, our heroine, is the youngest of five daughters in a family that was elevated to nobility ten years ago, due to her father’s fortune in coal mining. Her mother and older sisters have taken to life in the ton, even if the ton hasn’t quite taken to them. They have a blast going to parties and wearing fine clothes and skirting propriety and laughing about the nonsense written about them in the scandal sheets. They are all scandalous; not so scandalous as to be shunned, but scandalous enough that they are not quite accepted. They don’t seem to care.
Sophie, on the other hand, hates London and the ton and the nonsense that the gossip mongers say and write about her sisters. She is the boring sister. She is plain. She is not outspoken. She is not engaging in a public and inappropriate flirtation. Boring, that is, until the garden party where she pushes her ducal brother-in-law into a fishpond. (He deserved it.) Afterwards, she gives an impassioned speech about double standards and how he deserved it, and is quietly shunned. Obviously, it is time for her to make a quick exit.
Enter King (yes, that is his name, and yes, Sophie mocks him for it). He’s escaping down a trellis and drops his boot on her head. She begs him for a ride to Mayfair, and when he doesn’t go for it, she sneaks onto his carriage anyways (via footman bribery). Only problem: he’s not going to Mayfair, but home to the Scottish border to see his dying father.
King is convinced that Sophie, as one of five sisters in a not-quite-respectable family, is trying to trap him into marriage. Sophie has no desire to marry a reprehensible playboy just like her terrible brother-in-law. However, they find themselves bound together on a ridiculously eventful journey north. As you can imagine, shenanigans ensue, and the erstwhile antagonists reach a rapprochement – and then reach for each other.
Reading the story, I enjoyed the first half better than the second half of the book. In the first half of the book, Sophie and King bicker and try to one-up one another and find themselves in ludicrous situation, and it’s a fun comic romp. In the second half of the book, once Sophie and King are in love, things get a bit less funny (a lot less funny), as they play the game of not being able to be together because they both think that the other deserves someone better. **face palm** I just couldn’t deal with their conflict, because they were being dumb and non-communicative, even though they clearly cared for each other. I will say that the sequence of events leading to the final climactic moment (in more ways than one) was really well done – basically, once Sophie’s family shows up, things started moving again, and the conflict wasn’t just King being sad because he could never love her like she deserved or some nonsense.
Even with the slow bits in the second half, The Rogue Not Taken was, overall, an excellent read. It helps that MacLean has a solid handle on her prose, writing zippy dialogue and engaging characters. So although The Rogue Not Taken didn’t quite check every box for me, I still already recommended it to my mom – and will definitely be checking out more of MacLean’s work in the future.
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